Fog Creek Software
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Interviewing criteria

You list ( http://www.joelonsoftware.com/articles/fog0000000073.html ) two criteria for job candidates  -- Be Smart and Get Things Done.  What about "Don't be a jerk"?  Does that factor into the interview process?  How much do you consider how well a person will fit into an existing team?

I have this quaint notion that no matter how smart a person is, he's not worth having if he makes the rest of the group miserable.  I have, unfortunately, been unable to convince my own management to see it my way.  Are you more enlightened than they are?

Boofus McGoofus
Tuesday, March 02, 2004

We do have such a policy at Fog Creek, and we've applied it, although we used a more colorful word than "Jerk."

Joel Spolsky
Fog Creek Software
Tuesday, March 02, 2004

sadly, they don't seem to apply that criteria on the team in which I develop :(

muppet from electric-chipmunk
Tuesday, March 02, 2004

The No Jerks policy is just as important as Smart and Gets Things Done. 

The best organizations I've worked for recognized this; the others did not.  At the worst place I worked, I remember management defending one continually disruptive employee by saying, "He occasionally hits a home run."  No mention of the fact that the rest of the time he beat his coworkers about the head and shoulders with the bat.

Cognitive Dissonance
Tuesday, March 02, 2004

That is our most important criteria!!!

We used to have a team with more than one "jerks" that never worked as a team and never got anything done.  They made everyone miserable, including management.  We finally got rid of most of them one by one (by incouraging them to move onto other teams) and we've added team players.  Our team is now growing healthy again.

It's REALLY important that the person fit into the team.  If you have even 'a' jerk on your team, they can bring your productivity to a screeching hault.

Cari G.
Tuesday, March 02, 2004

CD, that's a good point about "jerks".  While they may hit an occassional home run, the rest of the time they aren't just striking out - they're striking out then smacking people around in the dugout.

Lou
Tuesday, March 02, 2004

The beauty of Smart and Gets Things Done, as far as I can see, is that it's extremely vauge because it's not quantifiable.

Picture what would happen if you replace Smart with 4.0 GPA.  I've interviewed some folks with a 4.0 where the only explanation I can give is that they cheated their way through school.

So a whole multitude of bad personality characteristics can be attacked using these two maxims.  A jerk will have problems Getting Things Done if nobody likes him.  A egomaniac may have a problem Getting Things Done and being Smart if he makes bad decisions against the advice of others, if nobody likes him, etc.

Flamebait Sr.
Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Too much talk of "the team" and "team work" makes me feel the need to puke.  I can't recall anyone ever mentioning "teamwork" in any context other than making up for lack of planning and poor performance.  That is yes we failed to plan.  Yes we failed to heed warnings at the start of this project.  Yes we have have chosen innappropriate technologies and set impossible schedules but now, if we all pull together as a team...

As for the "No Jerks" criteria, you are all exaggerating its importance.  Most people just aren't that bad.  I suspect a lot of the Jerky behavior you have observed over the years could have been dealt with via good management, thus sparing the "team" the loss of a valuable contributor.  People who are such A-holes that no one can stand them are very rare and it is so obvious not to hire them that there is no point in making it a formal criterion.

I mean, why not have a policy "we don't hire the criminally insane"?

name withheld out of cowardice
Tuesday, March 02, 2004

I am a jerk.

I owe my longevity here to my time-honored tradition of getting things done, not abiding interruptions from "team players" who
  - didn't read my last email
  - didn't read the docs
  - didn't RTFM

If you need help dealing with something I own, I will help you politely.

But if you
  - are bad at your job
  - obstruct me from doing mine
  - repeatedly ask to borrow my resourcefulness and ingenuity without first attempting to use your own

...then I will allocate some of my own precious time to the task of calling attention to your weaknesses.

Jerkmeister
Tuesday, March 02, 2004

I mean, why not have a policy "we don't hire the criminally insane"?

Because most companies *don't* hire the criminally insane.  Whereas many, many companies hire jerks.

Cognitive Dissonance
Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Back when I used to be the best assembly-language coder on Earth, I always wanted to work alone so I wouldn't have to carry a team of lackwits who couldn't even understand my work, much less improve on it.  My modules were flawless and any integration problems always turned out to be some else's fault.

I felt, though, that I required a larger audience to appreciate my talents, so I resolved to get along with other developers just enough to join a project team and bless them with the largess of my contributions.

Fortunately for me the team was very well managed and the lead programmer, having seen this kind of thing before, was very patient.  Looking back on it now, I don't understand why he didn't just poison my pizza.

So I worked with the team, bounced my ideas off them, argued the fine points, and learned that not only was I a jerk, but most of my precious code was actually junk.  Only after giving up the idea that I was the best, was I able to improve, learn, and become productive.

I think the antisocial genius is mostly a myth.  Personally, I have found it possible to be antisocial and a genius , but not at the same time.

-Al.

A. I. Breveleri
Tuesday, March 02, 2004

I agree with Jerkmeister.

In an ideal world, everyone on the team would be competent. In the real world, sometimes they're not. Sometimes they're just enourmous time sinks.

In such situations, the only "smart" way to "get things done" is to be a "jerk" to the people who would otherwise make this impossible.

Sometimes life throws you conflicting goals. The key to productivity is deciding which goals are most expendable in a certain situation. Often the most expendable goal is that of not being a jerk.

Thems the breaks.

Sum Dum Gai
Tuesday, March 02, 2004

having worked with EXTREMELY competent programmers who were quite willing to help out and even mentor some of the less experienced members of my previous team DESPITE tight deadlines and unrealistic milestones, I find it hard to swallow your justifications for acting like a jerk in a team context.  It's arrogance, plain and simple.  You consider yourself a developer, or a programmer, whichever term you prefer, Software Engineer, maybe, and you don't feel as it's your "job" to mesh with your team and pool your resources, it's simply your job to produce.

Sorry, that's arrogant, egotistical, and highly sophomoric.  Some very talented, very skilled people should get over themselves.

muppet from electric-chipmunk
Tuesday, March 02, 2004

There's a difference between less experienced and useless.

If someone has 15 years experience (vs your 1) and still can't write working code, and treats you like you're their personal MSDN library, then you are wasting your time with them.

I've been there done that. The only way to get work done was to be as brief and to the point as possible. Otherwise I could have very easily spent all day holding his hand.

Sum Dum Gai
Tuesday, March 02, 2004

I doubt we're going to reach agreement on this.  But let me suggest one simple thing that might make things better for everyone.

To wit: If you're a jerk, make sure prospective employers know it.

I leave it to you whether come right out and say, "I'm a jerk."  It'll probably suffice if you tell the interviewer that he's just asked a dumb question, or about how you saved the last project by telling off the manager. 

Rely on the interviewer recognizing that your ability trumps your social skills.  After all, that's what you'll be relying on *after* you've been hired.  And if you're rejected for your style, aren't both you and the prospective company better off?  Why not work for people who also believe that it's OK to run roughshod over others who are less capable or are just somehow unable to get with the program?

You may think that I'm writing it with tongue in cheek, but I'm not.  I'd estimate that about 75% of all tech companies will *not* reject you on personality issues if you're really a superstar.  And the other 25% would appreciate the opportunity to see you as you really are.

Cognitive Dissonance
Tuesday, March 02, 2004

It's also worth pointing out that there's a difference between *being* a jerk and making occasional or strategic use of jerkish behaviors.  Someone who "isn't a jerk, but plays one on TV" can be worth having around, especially if you know when to expect rudeness from them or why they use it when they do.

On the other hand, someone who flies off the handle during an interview, when clear (and, hopefully, convivial) communication is of vital importance, would get a thumbs-down vote from me.  (=

Sam Livingston-Gray
Tuesday, March 02, 2004

"Being a jerk" is an active description. "Jerk" isn't a trait, it's a mode of behaviour.

As such, there's no such thing as someone who plays one on TV. There's just people who display such behaviour more or less often.

As you say, sometimes being a jerk is necessary. That's what I meant to say. You should certainly not be a jerk to everyone all the time.

But occasionally, it's necessary to be a jerk to some people some of the time if you hope to accomplish the goals of the team.

I'm not saying I enjoy it. I'd much rather the situation didn't arrise where I had to be a jerk! However, I'm not going to spend all day explaining things to someone who isn't going to get it anyway just to avoid hurting anyone's feelings.

It's a last resort strategy. If you were the manager, you'd just fire the poor bastard. But you're not, so when it's clear that working with them is not productive, you work around them.

Sum Dum Gai
Tuesday, March 02, 2004

'"Being a jerk" is an active description. "Jerk" isn't a trait, it's a mode of behaviour.'

No, I think there are people who are just inherently jerks.  The jerk who married my ex, for example, seems to have grown up at the center of a universe in which he's obligated to insult, annoy, and manipulate everyone around him.  He can *act* charming when he wants to, but he *is* a jerk.

Okay, it's not technically a work example, but hey, he draws a paycheck from somewhere... ;>

Sam Livingston-Gray
Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Perhaps sometimes acting the jerk IS necessary when dealing with nearly useless, lead-weight coworkers, HOWEVER:  to many jerks, EVERYONE who surrounds him is a nearly useless lead weight.  A true jerk is an absolute narcissist whether or not he/she realizes it, and everyone around them is simply inferior, whether they think that implicitly or explicitly.  "If you want it done right, do it yourself" conveys an utter disdain for one's peers and/or coworkers.  If you have respect for NO ONE where you work, justified or not, you ought to be in search of new employment.

muppet from electric-chipmunk
Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Okay, some of us think being a "jerk" is fine and sometimes necessary, while others say it is an absolute contraindication to being on a team.  I still say that a good manager should be expected to make good use of a mild to moderate jerk but should not be blamed for the performance of someone who just isn't that bright.  To me that settles it.  It might be a hiring criterion but if you goal is a successful company you just can't put it on the same level as "smart and get's things done".

As for most companies not hiring the criminally insane...yeah, sure they don't.  I've had lots of interviews trying to screen me for knowledge.  No one has ever tried to get at how I feel about criminality.  If you knew an applicant was a crook it would be intuitive not to hire (for me anyway) but I guarantee you such people make it through the process.

name withheld out of cowardice
Wednesday, March 03, 2004

+++It might be a hiring criterion but if you goal is a successful company you just can't put it on the same level as "smart and get's things done".+++

How do you suppose that your team will "get things done" if they're all busy infighting because your jerk ratio is too high?  (ie, more than 1:500).  ;)

muppet from electric-chipmunk
Wednesday, March 03, 2004

How will they get things done?  It requires good management and team setup.  If everyone is an absolute jerk, but can "get things done" on an individual basis, though it will be difficult I believe a good manager could set up tasks in such a way that the team members work in isolation.

In a more likely situation, in which most of the team interacts well, but they have one member who just shouldn't talk to other people but is an absolute whiz at getting things done and soleving really tough problems, I would probably set the team up so that most of the team works normally but the savage jerk is given valuable tasks which can be done in isolation.  If there is a problem that only the genius jerk can solve I would have the team work to define the problem well and then hand it off to the jerk.

You see, I can still get work done with the smart thing-doing jerk whereas a lazy, short attention span having dolt is pretty useless to me no matter how nice he is.

name withheld out of cowardice
Wednesday, March 03, 2004

So your strategy then is to hire a cancerous tumour, and then divert your workflow around it.  Since when has programming in isolation *ever* been a very good idea?  I can think of some very specific scenarios where it would work, but that doesn't seem to be a very agile policy.

muppet from electric-chipmunk
Wednesday, March 03, 2004

I don't buy your analogy of a "cancerous tumor".  The problem here is that you have decided that development must be "agile" (whatever that means) and that a developer working in isolation is not "agile".  I don't even no how to begin to argue against that and so for you organization I wouldn't recommend it.

I think though, if you look outside of software you will see many fields (show biz comes to mind) in which there are jerks who are quite hated by their peers and yet can do things that are so valuable that the jerkiness is overlooked.

If you can't see how to utilize a highly talented, jerky role-player that's fine.  Don't be a manager or only hire nicer people.  I guarantee though, that there are very talented people whom you might not like personally and whom most of your team migth hate, but who could be utilized very effectly by a good manager.

Stupid people on the other hand are fairly useless for software development.

Now if this guy truly is a cancer, i.e. no matter what you do he goes out of his way to prevent the rest of the team from functioning, fine, I agree I wouldn't want such a developer on my team.

name withheld out of cowardice
Wednesday, March 03, 2004

We're heading into False Dichotomy Canyon.  Apparently our only choices are the nice-guy ineffectual dolt and the technically-competent jerk.

And, of course, the correct answer is: don't hire either.  Find a technically-competent person who can actually get along with other human beings.  They exist; I've had the pleasure of working with lots of them.

Cognitive Dissonance
Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Cognitive- you are of course correct about whom to hire ideally but the original point of this thread, if I may summarize and paraphrase, is should we place personality issues on the same level as "smart and gets things done".  My conclusion is that we should not.  We are talking about primary overriding criteria.  Obviously we would all have other less important criteria involving skill sets and pleasing scent but they simply aren't on the level of the primaries.  "not a jerk" just doesn't rise to that level for me.

name withheld out of cowardice
Wednesday, March 03, 2004

And to me, "Not A Jerk" does rise to the same level as "Gets Things Done," mostly because in my experience, it's almost impossible to get things done while being a jerk.


At a hypothetical company, there are people who won't come in to the office just to avoid The Jerk.  People don't talk to each other as much about the impact of this change or that one because they don't want to talk to The J. 

The J also doesn't get all the information he should -- largely because he's too arrogant to ask for it, but also because he's not involved with the casual give-and-take of the rest of the department. 

There are competent people who aren't jerks.  (As I ask nearly all my married female friends -- ) why is everyone so willing to settle?

Boofus McGoofus
Wednesday, March 03, 2004

We use Perl.  I can say with utmost certainty that there are only two people who somewhat understand variable scope.  There are a few people who understand variable interpolation in double-quoted strings.  There is maybe one person who truely understands references.  Most of the other developers use me as their personal perldoc (Perl's documentation system).  Most of the developers use the keep adding more code until it seems to work development method.  One of my coworkers spent half a day trying to figure out how to use a module to parse HTML.  After bugging me several times I spent about 10 minutes writing some sample code for her that did 95% of what she needed.  This monumental task required simply reading the documentation and knowing Perl.

Now I tend not to be a jerk, but I will subtly talk down to them when they ask dumb questions.  Fortunately those above me do seem to realize that I do my work well.  I received a bonus last year even though I wasn't supposed to be eligible and this year I received one of the largest bonuses among the developers (of course many of my coworkers bitched about the bonuses they received for simply doing the bare minimum required of them).  And no, I'm not socially inept.  We have clients that have sent glowing reviews of my work and handling of their projects to my bosses (I work in a department that does custom portions of our product).

My point is that there are a lot of incompetent people in this field.  Yes, there are some prima donnas who really are more trouble than they are worth, but that isn't always the case.

The person who I mentioned earlier who was having problems with parsing HTML is leaving the company for a better offer.  It sounds like she will probably be making at least 25% more.  I guess the interviewing process isn't all that great at weeding out the incompetent people...

Anonymous
Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Boofus hit the nail on the head here, a bit more eloquently than I with my 'programming in isolation' remark.  What I mean by 'not an agile policy' is that while T.J. is programming wonderfully brilliant stuff in his little corner (and likely not documenting a thing with so much as comments because, well, he's a jerk), everyone else is blissfully unaware of what his code is doing.  Later, when T.J. decides he can't take being surrounded by idiots anymore and leaves the company, you've just lost your key person for your most complex (presumably, since you've painted T.J. as a genius in your examples) module or library or what-have-you.

Not.  A.  Good.  Idea.

I can paint my entire house with a 2 inch brush and get BRILLIANT results, but I'd much rather use a roller.

muppet from electric-chipmunk
Wednesday, March 03, 2004

I forgot to mention that we do have a true prima donna jerk here.  When alone with other developers he is not afraid to let us know that he feels developers are the most intelligent people in the world.  He hates the customer and will do everything in his power to prevent them from getting what they want.  Unofficially he is not supposed to talk to clients because he is so brutal.  A client once asked him to step outside.  He treats all non-developers like children.  He is our lead developer and is in charge of everyone in the department as well as what features we will and won't implement.

Anonymous
Wednesday, March 03, 2004

And yes, I can understand the necessity in acting like a "jerk" when people use you in place of documentation.  Rather than be coarse, though, it's usually sufficient to use subtle hints such as "Well if you look for X in perldoc it's explained thoroughly..."

And a bit off topic here, but we use Perl as well, and if "developers" don't understand variable scope or references (pointers), then they really oughtn't be programming professionally in the first place.  It's just as simple as that.  Those people I would aggressively refer to documentation, but I'd try my damnedest not to be a jerk about it :)

muppet from electric-chipmunk
Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Because most of them don't understand variable scope most of our programs use global variables.  On top of which all of it is horrible spaghetti code.  It usually takes me 2-4 hours to make simple changes to the code.  Generally I have to spend some time fixing a bug introduced by the last person who touched the file.  Next I have to figure out where to actually make the change.  Then I actually make the change and test it as much as possible (we have no automated testing).

Anonymous
Wednesday, March 03, 2004

I just want to add that it's possible to refer people to documentation or to protect your own time and remain on task without being a jerk.

Let's look at some examples:

Co-worker:  "What do you think of ....?"

Jerk:  "That's fine, IF YOU WANT TO BRING THE SYSTEM TO ITS KNEES."

Non-Jerk:  "I really don't think that's a good idea because ..."

--------------

Co-worker:  "Can you tell me what the function ... does?"

Jerk:  "Go look it up, you shitwit."

Non-jerk:  "I'm not sure I can describe all the nuances, and I'm pretty busy.  Why don't you check the documentation and come back if you have questions."

---------------

Co-worker:  "Good morning"

Jerk:  "I hate you with the heat of a thousand burning suns."

Non-jerk:  "Good morning."



See the difference?

Boofus McGoofus
Wednesday, March 03, 2004

I think we are overgeneralizing the concept of "jerk" here.  I mean, if you assert that "jerks" refuse to document their code, then fine, I agree.  Don't hire him.

If you have someone in your office who is so awful that large numbers of others refuse to come in to the office (BTW I cosider it a bit suspiscious that this is an option) then you have a real problem.  If it was obvious during the interview, that someone was so awful that others would actually stop coming in to work to avoid him then don't hire him.  How could this be obvious during the interview?  Did he fire guns at the ceiling?

The issue of "jerkiness" during an interview, it seems to me would only come out in the form of a RTFM attitude (one which I hate BTW).  This would be a turn off to me but if I thought the guy was brilliant enough to justify the attitude I might well hire him.  His pleasant retarded brother...no way.

name withheld out of cowardice
Wednesday, March 03, 2004

+++The issue of "jerkiness" during an interview, it seems to me would only come out in the form of a RTFM attitude (one which I hate BTW). +++

And that's where I think we diverge.  I think that the RTFM attitude (with a bit of social tempering) is the ONLY justifiable mode of jerkiness.  If you are sacrificing your productivity in order to act as interactive documentation for non-internal standards or languages, then you OUGHT to tell people to RTFM.

Why in the world should I take time away from producing so that I can reiterate perldoc to you?  I guess I don't agree that telling people to RTFM constitutes jerkiness at all.

And I agree that the example of a jerk who prevents other people coming in the office is questionable.  Where does this happen?

muppet from electric-chipmunk
Wednesday, March 03, 2004

In re:  jerks keeping people from coming in

Whithout revealing the name of my firm, I can say that everyone in our department (well, all but one person) has gotten up in the morning and said "I just can't face him today" and worked from home.  Or called in sick.  Or (in a moment of bluntness) called in and said "I dealt with him yesterday -- today's your turn."

Most people try to avoid those who suck the joy out of a room (especially when they're running short of joy to start with).  When it's possible to avoid the joy-suckers, people take do whatever they have to.

Boofus McGoofus
Wednesday, March 03, 2004

I agree that people should RTFM before bothering other people.  I just don't think they should say it.  I also think there are lots of circumstances in which this is not a fair response and as an employee of the same company and just a human you should help out.  Generally this would be in situations in which you are expert in a technology that another programmer doesn't normally use and just has a quick question about it.

Example- you are expert at regular expressions and your colleague is not.  He just happens to need a regular expression for one little thing and probably will not run into the problem again for another 3-6 months.  You can do the RE in 30 seconds.  If you say RTFM you are a dick.

name withheld out of cowardice
Wednesday, March 03, 2004

+++I agree that people should RTFM before bothering other people.  I just don't think they should say it.+++

have to disagree here, political correctness never did anything for anyone.

in your other example (Re: the RE ;) ), I agree.  It's a bit unreasonable to expect someone to learn the entire Perl Regexp engine for a 30 second fix.  However, if they're asking me to write a RE for them that will translate Cantonese into Hebrew, then it's RTFM time.

muppet from electric-chipmunk
Wednesday, March 03, 2004

People come to me to ask questions about everything, not just challenging subjects such as regular expressions.  I'm talking really basic things such as the syntax of open().  And I really don't tell people to RTFM.  I almost always tell them or at least direct them to the proper documentation if it's something I can't explain quickly.  Usually they come back and ask for more help anyways and I do help them.  It does get tiring helping the same people with the same problems time after time, especially when you can tell they have no understanding of what you are telling them, they just go back and type exactly what you tell them.

It is also very common for people to come to me to ask me for help to troubleshoot a problem.  While I don't see a problem with having a second set of eyes looking over some code, I get asked to help because these people have no basic troubleshooting skills.  They have no idea about things such as the Data::Dumper module to examine data structures or using eval for exception handling.  I wrote a debug routine that uses caller to print out useful information to a log, but of course everyone uses an existing routine (copy and pasted into each program) that requires a bunch of global variables to be set and doesn't print out things such as line number.

Anonymous
Wednesday, March 03, 2004

I really like Boofus' examples.  So much so that I excerpted his post on my blog and put in my own responses.  As a five-year-plus senior-level consultant in one of the largest companies in the world, I learned the art of diplomacy.  Big-time.

Thus, I strongly agree with "name withheld out of cowardice" regarding 'helping a brother out'.

Blog here: http://directorblue.blogspot.com

dir at badblue dot com
Wednesday, March 03, 2004

>> Jerk:  "I hate you with the heat of a thousand burning suns."

I retract my comments about ever needing to be a jerk. Obviously I was underestimating the threshold of jerkness.

If anyone really has had to work with someone like this, I feel truly sorry for them. Obviously I've worked with some dickwits, but never a true jerk!

Sum Dum Gai
Wednesday, March 03, 2004

This is an amazing thread. I really envy you guys who work at places where ther are few or no jerks. Everyplace I've every worked has had 30-50% jerks, and that always includes the supervisors.

In a Sea of Jerks
Thursday, March 04, 2004

Muppet,

It has nothing to do with "political correctness".  It has to do with "politeness".  You can tell someone to go to the manual without saying RTFM.  "RTFM by including the expletive "fucking" takes on an unecessarily hostile tone.  In some cases a person doesn't even know which fucking manual he should be reading.

That said, there is a line between mentoring (which adds value to an enterprise and should be a factor in employee evaluations, i.e. true "senior" developers mentor, in my opinion anyway) and doing work to help others cover up their incompetence.

name withheld out of cowardice
Thursday, March 04, 2004

well.. I didn't mean 'RTFM' *literally*

I guess I should have said that explicitly (???)

muppet from electric-chipmunk
Thursday, March 04, 2004

vs Smart and Gets Things Done...

In every place I've worked, there was massive inefficiency around the area of a jerk and his work.  Whether it was good or bad, though in my experience it was always bad in one sense or another -- the jerk doesn't learn from anyone else, so eventually he'll fall behind.  I love the 'dugout' explanation, that's exactly what it's like, with everyone else trying to edge away or shove someone else into the line of fire in front of them.

Beyond the massive inefficiency, talented people quit if the manager can't control this guy.  So you have one out of control jerk, you can get rid of every A talent in the company.  Given enough time, everyone in the company will have to deal with this guy, and you end up with an entire company full of mediocre, fearful-of-change 9-to-5'ers.

And while I'm not as severe as one of my ex-employers, who didn't bother creating technical management positions, believing it to be that impossible, I don't think there's enough good managers to control the world jerk supply.  Nor should they always have to waste their time on it -- I mean, they'll quit too!  A good manager in this field is enough of a rarity to be worth more than a brilliant-but-suddenly-useless jerk, if you have to choose.

Summary: If you have a brilliant manager, and you'd rather have a brilliant but jerky programmer for a short period of time, go for it.  :)

Mikayla
Thursday, March 04, 2004

I think it's interesting that so many people feel that they have to act like jerks in order to protect their time.  The funny thing is that it might be a counterproductive behavior in some cases.  I've noticed that if I know someone will put in a lot of time and energy helping me out with something, I will bend over backwards to avoid taking up their time.  Conversely, while I wouldn't deliberately prolong an interaction with a jerk (who would?), I don't find myself trying to think of ways not to waste their time, either.  I want to get away from the jerks, and that doesn't help me think about how to use their time productively.

Clearly, mileage will vary. 

       

yzl
Thursday, March 04, 2004

Having been in the business a while, I have both been the asker of loads of questions and the answerer. If the senior folks had simply shouted RTFM every time I asked a question, I'd have never made it this far.

Of course, the senior folks who are brilliant coders should ask themselves, "Was I only hired to write code or was I also hired to pass the benefit of my experience to these junior wonks?" I suspect that most senior hires hear something in their job descriptions or interviews about "serving as a mentor". Be a jerk at risk of failing to perform one of your duties.

I have worked in offices where the vast majority of people spent the vast majority of their time complaining about how each particular person was getting some benefit they weren't (higher pay, looser hours, better parking, faster PC) instead of working. They were a bunch of jerks and I dreaded every day I worked there. Oh, did I mention that most of them were not smart?

Not smart, not getting anything done and jerks on top of it.

The thing most jerks don't understand about "teamwork" is that as a team, you actually produce more than you could each produce if you worked alone. Teamwork and politensss are not political correctness concepts. They are actual ways of getting more work out of a group.

My favorite example of teamwork benefitting the company is in a company that I turned down an offer from. Of course, it was a dot-com. They had sodas and food in the office all the time. They hired kids right out of school and usually from out of town. The company paid if senior people went to lunch with junior people. The company "sponsored" happy hours, so that the team members all became friends. The company hired someone to coordinate the team participating in volunteer programs on their weekends. The company paid for a team beach week and a ski week and all kinds of stuff.

Every one on that team arrived early every day. Every one of them stayed in the office until at least 8pm (all their friends were people from the office anyway - they had no opportunity or need to get friends outside of work) and they usually came in on the weekends, too.

Those folks got paid 50-75% of what I was making and they worked 50-100% more hours. Sounds like not hiring jerks and getting teamwork going got them something....

Dave Navarre
Monday, March 08, 2004

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